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The development of a new MRI scanning service at the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway has been approved by the Western Isles Health Board.

The project is subject to Scottish Government approval and securing the necessary funding – the predicted capital cost is nearly £2m.  

There are currently no MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) facilities available in the Western Isles and around 900-1000 scans every year are taking place at mainland hospitals for NHS Western Isles patients who have travel back and forth for each one.  

It has been a long-term aspiration of the Board to develop a local MRI service.  The development of a local MRI service would reduce unnecessary travel for patients and their carers and reduce multiple journeys to the mainland for vulnerable patients. 

The current annual MRI service costs of £638,000 (predominantly travel costs) would be used to provide sustainable revenue funding for a locally based service,  

The new 1.5T MRI scanner would involve capital costs of around £1,955,000, and would require annual recurring revenue funding of £612,000. Subject to necessary Scottish Government funding approval, NHS Western Isles would hope to have the service operational by August 2022.  

NHS Western Isles Interim Chair, Gill McCannon, said: “This has been on our wish list for a long time and I really welcome this. Having an MRI scanning service in the Western Isles Hospital would greatly improve the patient journey and experience, and we will shortly be welcoming a permanent radiologist, who would support this service. 

“It’s a fantastic opportunity and this is a very exciting development.” 

NHS Western Isles Medical Director, Dr Frank McAuley, said: “Assessment MRI is a highly specialised technique, it is now a standard Radiological tool and is the investigation of choice for many conditions that could be managed locally should an MRI service be based in the Western Isles.  

“Many patients are elderly or immobile and travelling on and off the island for care and treatment can be a stressful and difficult experience. Travel particularly in the winter months can often be exacerbated by poor weather conditions. 

“I am delighted that the Board has recognised the benefit that this service would bring, and that members unanimously accepted this proposal.” 

NHS Western Isles will now submit an application for funding to the Scottish Government.